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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘The Thin Red Line’: Terrence Malick’s Extraordinary, Utterly Transcendent World War II Epic

Movie poster for Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line starring Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel and Nick Nbolte

“The Thin Red Line” (1998) is a harrowing and profoundly transcendent World War II drama focused on the servicemen comprising C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and their efforts during the Pacific War and the Guadalcanal campaign of 1942.

Ostensibly focused on U.S. Army Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a pacifist who has gone AWOL and is living on a remote tropical island amongst Melanesian natives, the story follows his arrest and imprisonment by First Sergeant Welsh (Sean Welsh)—before being pressed back into active duty. As C Company commences the battle for Henderson Field on the island of Guadalcanal, a crucial objective in the offensive against Japanese forces, the narrative circulates through the mindsets and perspectives of the many disparate troops as they face the imminent threat of indignity and death.

Written and directed by renowned cinematic visionary Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven”, “The Tree of Life”), and loosely based on the 1962 novel by James Jones, “The Thin Red Line” is a expansive, dazzling and discursively philosophical conception. Amalgamating intense warfare with intimate reflections on the precariousness of existence and man’s often brutal effect upon the natural world, it’s a sublime depiction of humanity in the face of extreme conflict. Replete with a remarkable ensemble cast and spellbinding cinematography courtesy of John Toll, it’s a resounding cinematic achievement and ultimately one of the finest war films ever put to film.


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